Since joining the department in 1968, Davis has worked in almost every branch, including Internal Affairs, the Special Victims Unit, the Hazardous Materials Unit, and the district that covers Center City, where he was a rookie patrolman.
"He's very organized, and he makes it his job to be very knowledgeable about whatever he's doing," said Deputy Commissioner Jack Gaittens.
Raised in the Northeast, Davis graduated from Father Judge High School and attended Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, where he played for the basketball team until a leg injury forced him to quit.
Davis left school and had no plans until he opened the newspaper one day and saw a classified ad looking for people to administer a test for police officers.
After a few months of working as a test moderator, Davis decided to give the police exam a shot himself. He passed and joined the department a month before his 22d birthday, drawing a salary of $6,907.
Davis worked in Center City for eight years, then in two North Philly districts before making lieutenant.
"The best part of my career was my years on the street," Davis said. "Working on the street takes you to the heart of why you became a police officer, and it can be very rewarding."
After making captain in 1986, Davis was assigned to what was essentially the department's quality assurance division. He was tasked with reviewing police reports and organizing information to ensure numbers and crimes were reported accurately. Years later he was transferred to Community Affairs, then Internal Affairs. Before he knew it, he had learned a little bit about everything, Davis said.
In 2005 he was put in charge of Support Services, an umbrella bureau that handles the department's human resources, offender processing, criminal records and identification, vehicle impounds, and security at Police Headquarters, among other duties.
Many of the tasks Davis tackled have been far from enviable. When the department had to install fire alarms and sprinklers in every cell where prisoners were kept throughout the city, it was Davis' job to oversee the painstaking process of updating of fire codes. When the department took over several rooms in City Hall to be used for spillover evidence storage, it was Davis' job to make sure the rooms were renovated and to see that all evidence was properly labeled.
"These aren't glamorous projects, but to Bob it wasn't about that," Gaittens said. "He sees it as, somebody has to do this, so it should be done right."
After Davis' retirement party Friday, he will leave the department with an annual pension estimated at around $104,000. As for his future, his only plan so far is to spend as much of the summer as possible in Ocean City, N.J., with his wife, three children, and twin toddler granddaughters.
"People say when you retire that you don't miss the job, you miss the people," he said. "But for me that's not true, because I'm starting to miss the job already."
Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or firstname.lastname@example.org.